Usual Suspects Once Again Favored
According to the preseason Coaches Poll, the defending regular season ECAC champs Quinnipiac Bobcats are still the team to beat after garnering eight first-place votes. Meanwhile, the media favor last year’s postseason champion Harvard Crimson to win it all. Whoever you believe, the ECAC will still come down to the usual suspects, Quinnipiac, Harvard, Clarkson Golden Knights, and Cornell Big Red. All four have talent returning, have reloaded with top-notch recruits, and a few have chips on their shoulders.
Colgate should also make some noise, as the media placed the Red Raiders in fourth place over the Big Red.
The league’s bottom half will be Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale, slugging it out for last place. Both polls had those four schools in differing order. That leaves RPI, Union, and St. Lawrence as the buffer between the good and the bad. Guess that makes them the ugly.
The league also announced their Preseason All-League team. Goalie Yaniv Perets (Quinnipiac) backstops defensemen Zach Metsa (QU) and Henry Thrun (Harvard). At the same time, the forwards are Matthew Coronato (Harvard), Alex Campbell (Clarkson), with a tie between Alex Laferriere (Harvard) and Mathieu Gosselin (Clarkson).
The media had the same, except Sean Farrell (Harvard) beat out both Laferriere and Gosselin.
“We have a lot back, which I’m excited about, but eleven is a lot of players to kind of integrate,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold whose squad is acclimating 11 new players, eight freshmen and three transfers. “Practice has gone well, but practice is practice. We’re excited to get going.”
The Bobcats are still loaded, as evidenced by the selection of Perets and Metsa to the All-League team. Pecknold’s squad still features forwards Ethan de Jong, Michael Lombardi, TJ Friedmann, and Skylar Brind’Amour, all with more than 20 points last year. Metsa will anchor a defense of Iivari Rasanen and Jayden Lee and transfer students Jake Johnson and Jacob Nordqvist. If you get past all that, there’s Perets, the winner of last season’s ECAC Player of the Year and Ken Dryden Award. The 6′-1″ sophomore from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, will again be one of the premier goalies in college hockey.
If the defense was the Bobcats’ calling card last year, the offense was Harvard’s. The return of Coronato, Farrell, Laferriere and senior John Farinacci up front will power the Crimson offense. Harvard will look to Zakary Karpa and Alex Gaffney to improve their first-year production. The Crimson blue line is patrolled by Thrun, Ian Moore, and Ryan Siedem. All three factor into the Crimson’s offensive push but can secure the defensive zone. Mitchell Gibson returns to backstop the Crimson in goal. The 6′-1″ senior went 18-10-1 with a 2.17 Goals Against Average and a .918 Save Percentage last year.
Casey Jones‘ Golden Knights are right there with Harvard and QU. Clarkson has a plethora of experience and talent that will easily keep the Potsdam school in the hunt for trophies.
“We do have some returning players with offensive numbers that we feel good about,” said Jones. “We have a veteran defensive corps finally this year. Last couple of years, we’ve been young back there, so we’re hoping that translates into us playing faster and getting things off on the right foot early.”
All-League selections Campbell and Gosselin led the Golden Knights’ offense, and Ayrton Martino and Anthony Romano. Graduate transfer student Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup will add some more pop to the attack. Senior Dustyn McFaul and juniors Noah Beck, Tommy Pasanen, and Kaelan Taylor will lead the defense. Ethan Haider carried most of the load last season as a sophomore in the net. Graduate transfer Gabriel Vinal and sophomore Brady Parker will push Haider for playing time.
“I’m expecting Ethan to make a good jump in net,” said Jones of his junior netminder. Heider went 13-10-5 with a 2.39 GAA and .908 SV%.
Returning senior forwards Matt Stienburg, Max Andreev, Ben Berard, and defensemen Travis Mitchell, Sam Malinski, and Sebastian Dirven will bolster the Big Red. The Big Red feel they have something to prove after not making the trip to Lake Placid for the conference’s penultimate weekend last year. Stienburg, Andreev, Mitchell, and Malinski all turned down professional contracts to return to Ithaca, NY, to help achieve personal and team expectations.
The Red Raiders have an upper-classmen-heavy lineup that could put it all together this season. Leading scorers Colton Young, Alex Young, Matt Verboon, and Ethan Manderville will carry the offense. Colgate has a young but experienced defensive corps. Sophomore Tommy Bergsland and juniors Pierson Brandon and Nick Anderson will patrol the blue line in front of Carter Gylnader, who looks to bounce back from injury after starting 4-0 last year.
RPI under Head Coach Dave Smith has made improvements year to year, and this season should be no exception.
“I really like our team speed and skill,” said Smith. “It’s gone up. I think our ability to generate offense will go up on an individual basis.”
Ryan Mashie, TJ Walsh, Justin Addamo, and John Beaton return on offense. Brendan Budy and Austin Heidemann bring experience from the transfer portal. Smith expects junior forward Jack Brackett to improve upon his strong finish from last season.
Sophomore Jack Watson should shoulder the load to start the year in goal. Junior Brett Miller and freshman Carson Cherepak will push the 6′-3″ Toronto, Ont. native.
ECAC action kicks off on October 1, 2022, when Clarkson, Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, and Union drop the puck against non-conference foes. Colgate Red Raiders and RPI Engineers will open up conference play in Troy, NY, at the Engineers’ Houston Auditorium.